In Donald Murray’s essay “The Maker’s Eye: Revising Your Own Manuscripts,” he raises very important points about the nature of writing. To begin, he states that the real writing begins after the first draft is completed. That is the raw material, which can then be shaped into the real content. He states that “this difference in attitude is…the difference between amateur and professional.” (Murray 1) This attitude makes a lot of sense; after all, a writer must contain sufficient passion for his work that he should not just want to “get it over with,” and as such must take appropriate care to make the best manuscript possible.
Murray’s essay states that we must become “[our] own best enemy,” accepting criticism from others, being completely removed from any bias of the content that you have. Rewriting should not be considered a failure or a virtue; it’s merely “something that ought to be done.” (Murray 1) I agree that the writer needs to be extremely critical of his or her work; they cannot accept as given that a concept is adequately conveyed, because they already know the steps that they took to get to that conclusion that they used in their writing. They must make sure the narrative and explanatory lines are properly mapped out, or adequately left missing for dramatic effect.
Murray states that rewriting is an opportunity for writers “to discover what they have to say.” This is important, as writers may not be able to properly articulate or even understand their thoughts in a detailed manner upon first writing. They must discover their true intentions; they will understand their own subject more as they write, and figure out new things about their own opinion and stance on it. The process of writing may even change their mind as they go.
The writer must be “aware of audience.” (Murray 2) They have to look at the text from the audience’s perspective and determine what they would think of the work. In a sense, the text does not intrinsically belong to the writer; it belongs to the audience who will read it, and it must be up to par for their own enjoyment. At the same time, they must be suspicious of others’ criticism because they will not know the work or what the author is trying to say as well as the writer does. This also goes for the praise of others; this does not help you make changes at all, and it could be indicative of laziness on the part of the reader in not looking critically at your work.
It can be very hard to detach oneself from one’s own work. After all, a piece of writing is very important to the writer, as it is something they created. They do not want to see it in the hands of someone who would mistreat it, or have it be unappreciated. When someone says something negative about your own work, it has the capability to hurt you personally as well, especially if you put a lot of yourself into the work. I believe this is the main reason why people do not revise manuscripts, or do not think that they need to; by including other writers and revisers into the process, or by editing your own thoughts, it can feel close to censoring yourself. However, one must recognize that the work does not solely belong to you in order to let go of the personal authorship of a first draft.
Murray finishes his essay by stating that “a piece of writing is never finished,” which is likely the most accurate summation of the essay’s thesis. (Murray 3) I believe that this is true. This is something that I have also found in my own writing process. Writing, like so many other forms of art, is such an ongoing process that a draft is merely decided to be “good enough” and delivered to the audience. It is not strictly perfect, as it will never be perfect – there are always new things to adjust. The writer merely needs to decide when enough is enough, and live with what has been given to the audience.
Murray, Donald J. “The Maker’s Eye: Revising Your Own Manuscripts.” The Writer, 1973.